Over the course of about two hours and more than 15,000 words, Tim and Joe talked about everything from Black Flag to 88 Fingers Louie to life on a major label. The next installments will follow over the next few days.
It seems like the album came together really quickly.
Yes! It was insanely quick. We always write while we are on tour so we had the ideas, it was just a matter of getting us in a room to sit down and work it out.
This is your second album for a major label. Did you feel kind of any, like I mean obviously for the first one thereís a lot of pressure from your original fanbase and I guess with the second one you have a little more room to do what you want?
With the first one I think we were just a little nervous going into it because it was new territory and after working with Fat Mike it was a little bit - I mean heís just easy. Going into Geffen it was definitely a little bit different although they still let us do what we want musically, but we were just nervous because it was a new process.
And of course, between 88 Fingers Louie and Rise Against, youíd been on indies for at least 10 years.
We were the fourth band to sign with Fat Wreck Chords for 7-inches. It was Lagwagon, Propagandhi, No Use For A Name, and then us, which is crazy. And then we went to Hopeless for our full length so weíre talking over 10 years ago. Probably going on Iíd say almost 12 years.
I have that first 7-0inch in a box somewhere I think.
(laughing) So do I!
On the subject of the new record, there was a new fanbase that came onboard after ďSwing Life AwayĒ broke. I think a lot of your longtime fans heard the song on the compilation before, but did you guys expect it to blow up the way it did?
We didnít really know. We actually didnít even think about it, but when we were recording Siren Song of the Counter-Culture we didnít really think about putting it on the album and then people were telling us that it was a great song and that we should consider putting it on our album so that more people hear it because not everyone is going to buy the Punk Goes Acoustic compilation.
We ended up just doing it and Tim reworked it a little bit and we kind of didnít think anything of it after that and then we were a little hesitant about releasing it as a single for obvious reasons because we were not a Dashboard Confessional kind of band. Somehow with this band though different styles have always worked so we think it worked out in our favor for sure.
It wasnít contrived or anything at least that. It was definitely a Rise Against song.
I think part of the reason it felt more natural was because you guys put it out on just some comp. at one point so it was like, if this was a big calculated thing you guys probably wouldnít have put it on the comp., you know what I mean?
Exactly. Or it wouldíve been insane planning on our part to do it three years in advance.
I have to tell you when you guys announced the signing I was a little surprised. And donít get me wrong, I thought RPM was amazing and I was a huge backer of the band for the longest time and that one really blew me away, but you guys always seemed a little hard for a major label.
Itís weird because the whole major label world was a world that we didnít think about or didnít feel that we even had a place in it and then just one day I got a call from this dude at DreamWorks and he was the head of A&R. I thought someone was playing a joke on me?
So then it just started from there. He didnít even say he wanted to sign or meet us. He just told us who he was and that he liked our band. That was it and it really caught me off guard. It was literally the day after I got back from a European tour that we did with the Mad Caddies. It was a Fat Wreck Chords tour and just like you know, I wasnít even in that frame of mind at all with the major label thing. And then after he called more and more people started calling us and we were touring and people were coming out to our shows. It was a really strange experience.
What were you really going for with the new album? It is a dark, dark album and definitely not what youíd expect from a band that had a hit acoustic song. You even went back to Bill Stevenson, who is definitely more in tune with the independent punk scene than GGGarth was.
No matter what label weíre on or what producer weíre working with weíre always going to write whatever our hearts are feeling at the time. Itís definitely a per day kind of thing and thatís just kind of the result of that and Bill will definitely help that, help our sound more than say GGGarth. I wouldnít say Garth hurt our sound, but he didnít quite understand what Rise Against was about. When weíre writing songs or working on song structures you can say ďHey Bill I want this part to be like Depression from Black FlagĒ and heís going to know exactly what Iím talking about and with GGGarth it was like ďWhat? What do you want? I donít understand.Ē Itís like Bill has the ability to take Rise Against and just step it up a couple notches you know soÖ.
We work very well together for sure.
On that note, what was it like playing Black Flag in the movie?
It was awesome. If thereís any movie we were going to be a part of that, it was that one. When I got that call saying they were doing a movie about Dogtown Skateboards and Tony Alva and they wanted us to play Black Flag, it really was just a surreal thing and it was great because when we filmed, Tony Alva was on the set and Bill Stevenson was on vacation with his family in LA so he came out to the set and it was just great, just fun to be a part of.
Did you hear from Keith or Greg or anyone about it?
No I didnít hear from them, but itís funny because the drummer that played on that 7 inch, the Nervous Breakdown 7 inch, was this guy Brian Migdol. Our booking agent was moving offices and he was one of the movers. And he was talking to Corrie whoís our booking agent and he said ďYou book Rise Against right? I used to play in Black Flag I was in the Nervous Breakdown 7 inch and Iíd really like to meet those guys.Ē Whoa! Thatís crazy!
I really love that single I think thatís the defining Black Flag moment. I know everyone goes with Rollins, but I think thatís the defining one.
Iíve always thought Rollins ruined Black Flag. Iím sure thatís going to get back to me at some point but I really like Keith Morris, ChavoÖ Ron Reyes was my favoriteÖ the Jealous Again EP is by far my favorite Black Flag EP.
The new album definitely has a consistent feel and mood. Do you guys write albums or do you write songs and pick the ones that you feel flow together?
We definitely write songs and musically we never try to go for a theme on an album. Itís just like I said these songs are written over the course of a year or two of touring. Even if it means writing a verse or a little guitar riff, the ideas are there throughout a long period of time and weíll get together for a couple months and hash out all the little intricate parts.
Itís kind of weird because sometimes weíll have bits and pieces and sometimes Iíll have the whole song or Tim has the whole song and then we kind of work out the little nuances. But itís not like weíre writing all of these songs in a monthsí time, you know.
You mentioned that you all bring stuff to the table because there was definitely an evolution between say The Unraveling and RPM and since then you are writing more as a unit because everything like you are writing together more?
Yeah. I think that is the case and I think we took a lot of basic frameworks on Sufferer and the Witness and we really made sure that the drums were accenting vocal things and guitar parts were played just write at least to where we thought were just right- not overplaying or underplaying. I guess as we grow as a band weíre paying more attention to that you know, and I think with my bass playing too over the course of since I started when I was 15, I think I kind of tended to overplay in 88 Fingers Louie and Iíve since learned to only play when needed if that makes sense.
Yeah, I know what you mean. 88 Fingers Louie was a pretty technical band even though people probably didnít think of them that way you guys were all pretty intense musicians on that one, at least on the records that Iíve got.
I think that was a result of me trying to be like Matt Freeman from Rancid and Dan trying to be Lagwagon or something. You know, and thatís fine because we learned from that.
Youíve been doing this for a while so how do you keep staying out on the road for such long stretches of time? It tears up a lot of bands and youíve been doing it for a long time.
Iím not going to lie, itís hard. In our personal lives we all have families and two of us are married and two of us have daughters and itís definitely hard as far as thatís concerned. But, itís also very rewarding to see this bandís growth and to know that what we do has meaning you know, and itís kind of like- thereís two parts that make up at least my life. My wife is one and this band is the other, and without either or Iíd be lost. So, I think that kind of drives us to do what we do.
Warped Tour is a hard tour to do because youíre outside everyday- itís two months you know. Luckily weíve went through the hard part of it when we were playing the smaller stages and you were wheeling your equipment through dirt fields and that was hard to do, but it definitely gets easier when youíre on the bigger stage.
Youíve been on the Warped Tour a number of times in the past youíve seen how things have changed over the years where itís not just about punk and hardcore anymore but itís about a lot of other things. What kind of reception do you guys get?
Somehow you know over the last couple of years when screamoís gotten really big weíve always seemed to keep our head above water through it all, and a lot of punk bands canít say that. I donít know weíre just surviving through it for some reason and weíre really lucky that the people who listen to From First to Last are going to listen to and I donít know why that is but Iím not complaining.
I think kids still respond to good songs, regardless of how itís classified. My girlfriendís not really a fan of hardcore or punk, but she likes Rise Against.
Weíre were sincere about what we do so I guess that shines through the musicÖ
You had Emily from Holy Roman Empire and Long Distance Runner to sing, and I think that was the first time you guys had a female vocalist. Thereís a different sound and range that you can get and I was just wondering if you guys have to think differently when you write that kind of stuff?
No, they were existing ideas that we came up with. Bill came up with the idea for a female to do the parts on those songs that Emily is on.
Tim immediately said we had to get Emily. We used to share a practice space with them and weíre really close with Holy Roman Empire. Tony was our original drummer (heís the drummer for Holy Roman Empire). So it just made sense to get her and it worked out really well. It is definitely a different direction that weíve taken as far as us in the past, but itís worked out.
It definitely makes it feel like a smaller world; Neil Hennessy contributed to your last record, and now heís producing Holy Roman Empireís demos. We were talking when the Lawrence Arms came through the other day and we were talking about Chicago.
Itís funny because itís so big. Like Chicago is insanely big, but the punk scene seems to be small. You know, everyone knows each other. Glenn Porter who started out Alkaline Trio with Matt Skiba was 88 Fingers Louieís drummer.
I donít know what it was like when 88 Fingers Louie got started, but nowadays a lot of people have their eyes on Chicago. And there are so many bands coming out of there that are just blowing up. You know what I mean?
Without a doubt and Ryanís Hope is great.
I was going to say that was great that you guys put out that record and Iím glad that Dan produced it too. Itís good to hear bands like that coming from Chicago you know. Theyíre aggressive but they write great melodies.
If you guys ever want to take them on tour we wouldnít complain.
Iíll keep that in mind whenever we headline.
After you finish the next few months of tours are you headed back to the studio?
No, you know we always like to leave a couple years in between records so probablyÖ I couldnít even imagine when weíd be back in the studio you know. Weíll at least have a year and a half of touringÖ.
Well it feels like the last album came out more recently than it did because it was like 2004 so itís been a few years but, I guess because it took a while to really build to the point where people outside of the scene that we live in started talking about it. It felt like it was almost new again when the single came out.
Yeah, it was a very slow and steady kind of growth. It was like, just chugging along. And I kind of prefer that. I wouldnít want this insane just blowup like Fall Out Boy is having. I mean Iím happy for those guys but it must be very stressful to be all of a sudden a double-platinum selling band you know?
So, weíll see. I think with this next record it is a step up from Siren Song so hopefully we just continue to grow like weíve been.